Fashion meets biology in a creation of 27 dresses artfully depicting the key developments during the first 1,000 hours of human life.
Originally designed and made by two sisters 14 years ago, the ‘Primitive Streak’ collection is the art work of artist/designer Helen Storey and biologist Kate Storey. Together they made a collection which stylises the intricate processes each of us went through in the womb.
Talking to BBC’s Radio 4 Helen said that it was difficult at first and she felt paralysed by the project. But her sister saw it as “an extraordinary thing to be able to convey this process to as many different parts of the community as possible…I had a very unique opportunity, with Helen working in the fashion industry, to reach a completely different audience.”
With new pieces, including the ‘Lung Dress,’ a sample of them went on tour. They were showcased in Sheffield, Newcastle and London and have previously been to eight countries since 1997.
1) From day one. The ‘Sperm Coat’ represents, as the name suggests, fertilisation. Helen said she, “had to wait for biology to show me what to do.” This led to 105 hours of embroidery onto a fabric which was dissolved in water and this extremely delicate coat was born.
3) 5-6 days. The ‘Implantation’ dress shows the embryo (the white part) embedding in the womb (the black part). This causes the development of the placenta, creating a direct line to the mother’s nutrients.4) 12-14 days. This piece is where the collection got its name, Kate says this is because, “Primitive Streak is a really pivotal structure in the embryo”. This is where the internal organs and tissues are made from a cell layer called Mesoderm. This is formed when cells crawl from the top layer of the cell through a groove in the Primitive Streak, making the new layer in the middle. The Primitive Streak is represented by two metallic sheets which feed into the central black groove at the back of the dress. The gold metallic fabric is the Mesoderm emerging.
5-6) From day 20. The ‘Heart Bird’ dress is one in a series showing foetal heart development. This dress is made from crin and shows how the different chambers form. The shape of the dress is held by nylon wires and the heart was made by pulling fabric over a shaped wooden block.
7) 22-25 days. The ‘Neurulation’ dress is made from white fake fur and it shows how the central nervous system forms. A sheet of cells called the Neural Plate roll up into a tube which will develop into the brain and spinal cord.
8 ) From day 24. The ‘Limb Formation’ dress is made from an artist’s primed canvas. Chloe Sendall painted the expanding limb buds in oils to show the start of arms and legs growing on the four week old foetus.
9) 28 days to birth. The ‘Lung Dress’ shows how our lungs develop from two small buds branching out. This dress is made from soft, shiny sponge and the branching is printed onto the velvet and chiffon wing like lungs.
10) From day 33. The final dress in the exhibition is the ‘Spinal Column’ dress which is made from a patterned fabric and a resin cast spine. This was hand plated with foil and 8,000 fibre optic endings, representing the nerves extending out to the body, are threaded through.
This collection saw new life brought to an old project which Helen and her sister are still passionate about, “we’ve gone from the bleeding obvious, in some cases, to something of great complexity. We’ve tried to use fashion as a way to bring that to life.”
By Sarah Walters
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